Let them eat cake

In an attempt to feel better, fitter, newly-improved and upgraded, I have an appointment for acupuncture at the Haven in Fulham. It is my first appointment and, as Fran is staying, she comes with me on the promise of lunch. We sit in the waiting area drinking coffee and eschewing the healthier-than-thou biscuits. Eventually I am called and ride in the small lift with my acupuncturist. He takes notes and asks lots of questions. What are my overriding concerns? What areas should we concentrate on? I tell him pain, exhaustion, headaches, sleeplessness – there is a whole catalogue but I restrain myself from asking for an upgrade on the basis that he cannot work miracles. He eventually tells me to take my shoes and socks off and I lie down on the treatment couch while he holds my wrists pensively before selecting needles. After inserting a few, he asks some more questions, apparently at random. How is my husband? Do I get nightmares? (These are not connected, I feel) He then inserts more needles – in my wrist, ankles and legs, asking if they feel ‘achey’. I am not sure we are on the same page with this word but I work out he means can I feel the needles are in when he twangs them. The answer is yes. But they still don’t feel achey. He checks my neck and then leaves me to relax while the needles work their magic. I find it strangely soporific, lying harpooned like a minor species of whale. I close my eyes and almost immediately begin those strange daytime dreams that sometimes happen when I’m very tired. After a few minutes, he returns and begins to remove the needles. As I sit up, I tell him I feel quite spaced out but he says this is normal and that I’ll feel drunk and then tired after a bit. On the way out, I make another appointment.

Fran and I decide to walk back from Fulham to Hamersmith station in an effort to boost my walking range. Race For Life is coming up awfully quickly and that 10k target is quite daunting. Fran is already at odds with my pedometer which she thinks wickedly underestimates how far we walk. We find a street map which shows us where we are, being unfamiliar with Fulham, and set off. North End Road is an interesting area, full of market stalls and local, independent shops. We weave our way in and out of charity shops but don’t buy anything. Fran is shortly about to move to Bangkok so buying things is not on her list at all and I don’t see anything I like. We are still not sure what to do about lunch but feel we might see something along the way. Over the road we see a baker’s and cross to examine it further. In the window, a woman stands making falafel at a very impressive rate. They sell samosas, cakes, pastries and lots, lots more. The array is dazzling with cakes of every shade, shape and colour and I know I have to buy one to take back for Mark. Fran doesn’t want a cake, even though some of them are distinctly day-glo, but she is tempted by some enormous savoury pastries. We opt for 2 lamb and vegetable and a spinach and cheese pastry, a huge slab of bread pudding, a bright red strawberry tart and an almond and custard pastry, snowy with icing sugar. I ask the woman if she minds if I take some photos while we are there. She says it is fine but her colleague seems less keen and ducks out of the way of my lens. I send Mark a text to tell him lunch is on the way.


We wend our way back towards Hammersmith tube, which I am sure has been moved further away from Fulham especially for my walk today, via a small cafe where Fran orders banana cake and I have a slice of lemon cake. They are satisfactory but I feel I could do better with the lemon cake myself. I must get back into the kitchen. I haven’t cooked for such a long time but feel I want to be back, stirring, pouring and creating again. We arrive home with our bags and put the pastries in the oven. When they are hot enough, we whip them out with much salivation from Dog and Mark. They are delicious and I save my crusts for Dog so he can have a treat whilst out on his walk. I may just have to walk back from my next acupuncture appointment…

The view from the aqueduct

We decided to go to see the Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, a huge feat of engineering. This was possibly not the most sensible decision we ever made, given we were comprised of a man with vertigo, a man with one leg, two middle-aged rather unfit women, one recovering from cancer, the other from a heart attack and Dog. But never say die! We don’t think of our limitations, only of what we want to do. So we set off, Ruth only thinking to mention the height aspect when we were crossing the car park. “Everyone is OK with heights, I take it?” Hmmm. We have had some interesting adventures with the height thing. In South Africa once, on a guided visit to a monkey sanctuary, the guide suddenly asked the same question. “We have one of the highest treetop walks in Africa!” he proudly announced. Cue Mark to go green at the thought. “Last week we had to take a pilot off in a cargo net” he said, chuckling at the thought. We had a choice – go back the way we had come or go forward and risk the humiliation of a cargo net removal. We decided to go forward and did OK. We had a similar experience in Borneo on Mount Kinabalu. The treetop walk there appeared to be constructed of aluminium ladders covered with planks, the sides remaining tantalisingly out of our grasp at times. Mark insisted I went first at high speed so I missed all the hanging over the side moments, taking photos and marvelling at the height.

“Do you think you can make it over?” I asked. “Hmmm, probably not” he said. “You’ve done worse. You’ve crossed the bridge over the River Kwai – or some of it. And this doesn’t have trains running over it, either”, I pointed out. But the decision was made that Mark and Dog would go down a path at the side of the Aquaduct, Ruth and I would go over the Aquaduct and Philip would sit on a seat given that he couldn’t go downhill and had been across before. We set off, shouting “Oo oo!” over the side, trying to attract Mark’s attention. After a while of crossing, we decided it would be easier to go down the path and join Mark and Dog. We found either a) an art installation b) an alfresco toilet c) a strange item of rubbish.


We walked down to join Mark, not thinking of the basic law of physics which says what goes down, must come up. A million steps later, we had a nice walk talking about taking revenge on people who have been really horrible and taken advantage of their position to bully, especially in the workplace. Mark suggested we set up awards for ‘Worst…………..’ (fill in the blank yourselves) and then award a runner up prize to the bully, showing they are not even good enough to be the worst at something. Ruth thought this was an excellent idea and spent all day sniggering at it. We set off climbing back up to the top. Ruth advised “We have to go up in stages and pretend we are stopping to admire the view”. I was way ahead of her on that one. It is only 126 feet high (or 38 metres for our metric cousins) but we only have little legs.